After re-reading some of the writing I did about what I learned, I decided to share some of these learnings on this site. They were pivotal in shaping what I know about creativity, and I was able to apply a lot of them in my everyday professional life. I learned an awful lot from them, and I’m hoping that by sharing them on here, you can too.
When I was reviewing the PACE sessions today, one jumped out at me. It was a double session called “The Probability of Certainty – Painting on Water.” A colleague of mine suggested that I take a class that I wouldn’t normally take, and I thought this session definitely fit the bill.
The session was taught by Amy Lee Segami. She’s a professional artist who uses this technique. I have to admit – I had no idea what to expect from this session, and I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Amy started the session by giving us background about herself and about the technique. The formal name for the technique is suminagashi. She first learned it while she was being raised in China. She said the best way to learn about it was to see it done, so we got into it.
Amy had a normal 5 gallon washtub filled almost to the top with water sitting in front of her. She took 2 bamboo barbeque skewers and dipped one in black Japanese Calligraphy ink and the other in a clear liquid. She then told us to start naming some opposites. Someone said night and day. With that, Amy dipped the skewer with the black ink into the water, and the ink formed a perfect quarter-shaped dot that floated on the top of the water. It was really neat. She then dripped the skewer with the clear liquid in the middle of the black ink, and the clear liquid pushed the black ink out and formed a perfect circle in it.
Amy continued doing this as we named opposites, and the black and white ink floating on the water began to look like the rings of a tree. It was really neat. After a few rounds of this, she stopped and told us to watch the ink. We did, and we saw that the water began to take a hold of the ink and move the ink around with it. The rings were no longer perfect and looked more like an amoeba. And it kept changing as the water kept fluidly moving.
She explained that this is where the session got its name from – the Probability of Certainty. In the suminagashi technique, we can only control so much. We can control how much ink we use, where we put the ink on the water, how we put the ink on the water – but we don’t control the end result. We have to let go of what we did and let the natural fluidity of the water take over and shape our creation. She related this to an idea – once we have an idea, we have to let it go to become what it can. We shouldn’t try to force it into something it’s not. I also think this applies to the broader business world. We can only control so much, and the rest just needs to happen.
Now that we have this wonderful design floating on the water, how do we get it onto a piece of paper? Amy showed us. Using colored construction paper, she carefully placed it on top of the water and the ink. She didn’t submerge it – rather she just floated it on top. She took the paper off the water and and showed us. The ink and clear liquid had absorbed into the paper, capturing our design. The ink didn’t run, and all we had to do was wait for the paper. It was really neat.
It was time to try our hand at this on our own. And now I know why they made this a double session – this was addicting! Everyone was very eager to try this out. While one person got to play at one of the stations, the other people looked on with enthusaism and wonder at what was being created. People started to get experimental by putting the ink in different places around the water, running the skewers through the water in a pattern, even drumming on the table or blowing on the water to move the ink around.
Each person got several tries at it. Here are 2 of my attempts:
I think they turned out pretty darn good. I might frame one of them for my office at work. (PS – I did!)
I might try and get the supplies to practice this technique at home as well. I found it to be very relaxing and very creative at the same time. It’s not something you get to do every day, and I think it’d be a fun way to spark some creative thinking.